Israel Concerned About Troubled Sinai as Egypt Roils

Israel should do all it can to help the new secular government in Egypt beat the Muslim Brotherhood, even if that means amending the Military Annex of the Camp David peace accords to allow more Egyptian military assets into the Sinai Peninsula, the former director of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister's Office Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nitzan Nuriel said Sunday.

Pictured: Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Avigdor Lieberman | Photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch
Speaking on Army Radio, Nuriel said a defeat for the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters in the Sinai would reverberate across the Middle East, and would be of huge strategic importance to Israel.

The Egyptian army is currently engaged in battle with Islamists across the Sinai. According to Al Gomhuria [The Republic], an Egyptian newspaper, the Egyptian military, accompanied by warplanes, are battling "terrorists and jihadists elements" in the Sinai. Al Gomhuria reported that the military presented its planned operation to Mohammed Morsi when he was still president, but that the latter rejected the idea "without offering an explanation."

Pointing to the increasing instability of Sinai, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman MK Avigdor Lieberman (Likud-Beytenu) warned over the weekend that Jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula are taking advantage of the current turmoil in Egypt to stage attacks on Israel.

"What is transpiring in Egypt should in no doubt be worrying us," he said. "This is our largest neighboring country, the first one we signed a peace agreement with, and clearly instability over there carries implications for the entire region. It is in our interest for Egypt to be stable and in full control over its territory.

A Salafi terror group took responsibility for rocket fire on Eilat on Thursday. The Sunni extremist group Jamaat Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis stated in a message from its Sinai base that the group would continue to target Israel.

"Jews, enemies of Allah, are those who are responsible for what is happening in Egypt and their long arm is to blame for the current situation," the statement said. "We bombed them to scare them and let them know that Allah is with us."

In addition, a new Islamist militant group calling itself Ansar al-Shariah in Egypt announced its formation amid the chaos.

The group said it would gather arms and start training its members, in a statement posted on an online forum for militants in the country's Sinai region on Friday and recorded by the SITE Monitoring organization, Reuters reported.

The group blamed the events on secularists, Egyptian Coptic Christians, state security forces and army commanders, who they said would turn the country into "a crusader, secular freak."

It denounced democracy and said it would instead champion Islamic law, or sharia, acquire weapons and train to allow Muslims to "deter the attackers, preserve the religion and empower the sharia."

Meanwhile, Israel believes that Hamas will continue to maintain the cease-fire as it serves its own interests, an Israeli defense official told Israel Radio on Saturday. According to the official, this weekend's global jihad call to fight the Egyptian army will "lead the army to take further action against Islamist elements and make a determined effort to restore order."

Last week Egypt sealed numerous tunnels to prevent arms smuggling from Sinai into Egypt that may destabilize the mainland. The official said that while events in Egypt were a blow to Hamas, the terror group would continue to maintain the cease-fire with Israel as it is in its own interests to do so.

Meanwhile, Egyptian security officials say suspected Islamic militants have bombed a natural gas pipeline to Jordan south of the city of el-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula.

I addition to starting fires that were soon put out, the attacks early Sunday on two points on the pipeline disrupted the flow of natural gas, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

In January, suspected Islamic militants attacked a police patrol along a Sinai pipeline, wounding seven policemen. Though it had come under attack more than a dozen times in the previous two years, Sunday was the first attack on Egypt's natural gas pipelines in Sinai in over a year.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the pipeline and checkpoint attacks or if they were in reaction to the Egyptian army's overthrow of Morsi on Wednesday.

SOURCE: Gideon Allon, Shlomo Cesana
Israel Hayom 
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